Post by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture
The 2021-2022 academic year marked the 25th anniversary of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture. The Franklin Research Center used the theme “Black Lives in Archives” as the thread for a slate of programs that built upon the center’s mission of advancing scholarship on the history and culture of people of African descent.
The anniversary events kicked off in September 2021 with a virtual lecture by Dr. Emilie Boone, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. Dr. Boone was invited to respond to an exhibition displayed in the Rubenstein Library’s Photography Gallery entitled “James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake: Picturing Blackness in the 1920s.” Curated by Franklin Research Center director, John B. Gartrell and the center’s 2019-2020 graduate intern, Jessica Stark, the exhibit presented selections from two African American photographers who made portrait style images of everyday African Americans at the height of the “New Negro Movement” of the 1920s.
A Black Lives in Archives virtual speaker series during the fall semester featured four scholars who were previously awarded Franklin Research Center travel grants to come to the Rubenstein Library and utilize the Center’s collections. The speakers invited to participate included Brandon K. Winford (University of Tennessee Knoxville), Lisa Bratton (Tuskegee University), Erik S. McDuffie (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Emilye Crosby (SUNY Geneseo). This “return to the archive” by each scholar highlighted the critical importance of Black collections as a foundation for new directions in the field of African and African American Studies.
And in January, the center hosted a special Archivist Roundtable featuring Gartrell, Chaitra Powell (Curator, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill) and Andre Vann (Coordinator of University Archives and Instructor of History, North Carolina Central University). The roundtable was an engaging conversation between three Black archivists discussing the arcs of their respective careers and the challenges and benefits of being caretakers for collections documenting the Black experience. All of the aforementioned virtual events were recorded and are now available through Duke University Libraries’ YouTube channel.
About the Franklin Research Center
In 1995, Dr. John Hope Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, donated his personal archive to Duke. In his honor, the Duke University Libraries founded the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture as a designated collecting area specializing in rare book and primary sources documenting people of African descent. Franklin’s archive and his scholarship have been the guiding lights of the Center’s engagement in public programming, teaching, exhibitions, and collaborations. This celebration of “Black Lives in Archives” honored the Center’s role as a premiere destination for researchers near and far over the last twenty-five years.